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Friends indeed ... or are they?

FRIENDS INDEED?: A study shows that despite many people having hundreds of Facebook friends, our social network remains small.
FRIENDS INDEED?: A study shows that despite many people having hundreds of Facebook friends, our social network remains small.

ALTHOUGH you may have hundreds of Facebook friends, new research suggests our social network remains small.

A study from Finland has followed 24 students and their mobile phone records over 18 months as the students moved from high school to university or work.

Using survey data and mobile phone records, the authors found that even when a new member was added to their social network, older network members either dropped out or started receiving fewer calls.

Queensland University of Technology associate professor of media and communications Axel Bruns said people were prioritising their phone calls to a limited number of people.

"There is a hierarchy of connections from your really close friends to acquaintances that you recognise but never remember their names," he said.

"The big unanswered question is how that fits into the overall framework of other forms of engagement that we've got including social media."

Mr Bruns said with the advent of platforms such as Facebook the way we communicated had changed.

"It's easier to keep in constant contact," he said.

"You may be better informed on what your friends are doing, but at the same time it might limit the deeper interactions you may have with those friends."

Mr Bruns said there were no common personality traits among prolific Facebook users.

"Some people may use Facebook to compensate for a lack of social skills offline," he said.

"But at the same time there are people who offline are very well connected and are just taking that online."

Mr Bruns said with about 12 million Australians on Facebook it would be unlikely that it would increase its user base any time soon, but incremental technological advancements could change how we use it.

"Our growth in the use of smartphones and tablets has made Facebook and other social media all the more ubiquitous," he said.

"As smartphones add more functionality, these things could open up more uses for social media."

Mr Bruns said the strength of platforms such as Facebook and Twitter was its ability to change the flow of information you received from people outside your inner circle.

"If something happens within your inner circle you'll find out about it one way or another," he said.

"But if those weaker connections share a piece of news it may not be something that is shared among your close friends."

5 traits of Facebook users

  • The Foodie - must upload a photo of every meal they eat until the end of time
  • The Bragger - only posts about themselves and their latest achievements no matter how insignificant
  • The Serial Inviter - constantly invites you to sign a petition or play Candy Crush with them
  • The Vague Poster - thinks they are being mysterious when they are only being annoying and nonsensical
  • The Intimate Sharer - shares intimate details of their life. No, we are not interested in your foot fungus

Take care ...

  • Think about who you add to your friends list
  • Be aware of your privacy settings and adjust if necessary
  • Be mindful of pictures that you or other people post of yourself and tag you on
  • Be aware of what you post if your employer is friends with you
  • Do not post too many details regarding your next holiday

Topics:  communication, editors picks, facebook, friendship



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